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Game Notes: Griffins at Stars - Dec. 20, 2023

Dec 20, 2023
Written By: Andrew Streitel

Grand Rapids Griffins (9-12-3-1) at Texas Stars (15-7-2-1)

Game Time: 8 p.m. at H-E-B Center at Cedar Park

December 20, 2023  ·  3 Minutes

Game Day Preview - December 20 at Texas Stars

Griffins Game #26 * Road Game #14 * AHL Game #397

Season Series: 1-3-1-0 Home Series: 1-1-0-0 Road Series: 0-2-1-0
All-Time Series:
40-28-5-5 All-Time Home Series: 21-12-1-4 All-Time Road Series: 19-16-4-1

Griffins at Stars
Sixth of eight meetings overall, fourth of four at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park...Since the 2019-20 season, the Griffins are 10-13-3-2 (.446) against Texas with a minus-17 scoring margin (96-79)...Also since 2019-20, Grand Rapids is 5-7-2-1 (.433) against the Stars in Texas and has been outscored 55-41...Through 25 games, Texas ranks first in the AHL with an average of 3.96 goals scored, while conceding an average of 3.28 goals (23rd in AHL)...Texas is 6-4-0-0 in its last 10 games and 6-2-2-1 at home this season...The Griffins are 4-4-2-0 in their last 10 and 2-8-2-1 on the road, including wins in just one of their last eight road games...The Stars’ penalty kill unit places 27th on the circuit at 78.0%, having killed just 15 out of 22 power plays (68.2%) in their last six games...Texas’ power play places third at 24.0%...Joel L’Esperance competed with the Texas Stars from 2017-22 and totaled 136 points (80-56—136) in 183 games...Texas’ Logan Stankoven (14-19—33, 2nd) and Mavrik Bourque (12-24—36, 1st) are the top two scorers in the AHL. Bourque also paces the league in assists, while Stankoven is tied for third in goals. Last night, Stankoven posted three assists against the Griffins and Bourque scored four goals.

Last Time Out
Mavrik Bourque's four-goal night prevented the Griffins from collecting two points in a 4-3 overtime loss at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park on Tuesday. In the loss, Taro Hirose passed Mitch Callahan for seventh on the Griffins’ all-time point list with 187 with his assist on Jonatan Berggren's goal. Tim Gettinger, Hirose and Berggren all collected two points. Bourque’s four goals were the first four-tally performance by a single player against the Griffins since Tim Stapleton in 2009.

Roster Shakeup
- Dec. 15—F Zach Aston-Reese and F Jonatan Berggren reassigned by Detroit
- Dec. 16—F Alex Doucet reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) from Grand Rapids by Detroit; G Michael Hutchinson signed to a one-year contract by Grand Rapids
- Dec. 18—F Austin Czarnik reassigned by Detroit
- Dec. 19—G Michael Hutchinson released from AHL contract by Grand Rapids; G John Lethemon reassigned from Toledo (ECHL) to Grand Rapids by Detroit; F Austin Czarnik recalled by Detroit

This Date in Griffins History
2013: Mitch Callahan’s overtime goal lifts the Griffins to a 3-2 win over Rockford, pushing Grand Rapids’ franchise-record start to an incredible 21-5-1-1. The Griffins win for the 19th time in their last 22 games, a stretch of success unmatched in the team’s 18 seasons.

Long and Twisted Road
The Griffins head out on a four-game road trip that began last night against the Texas Stars. Grand Rapids has not fared well away from home, as it is just 2-8-2-1 (.269) with a minus-20 scoring margin in foreign territory compared to a 7-4-1-0 (.625) mark at home with a plus-eight margin. Dating back to Nov. 17, the Griffins have won just one out of their last eight road contests (1-5-2-0). Grand Rapids’ seven points on the road through 13 games are tied for 29th on the circuit, while its 15 points at home are tied for seventh.

Kept at Bay
Last week, the Griffins welcomed the highest-scoring team in the AHL the Texas Stars for a two-game home series. Entering the week, the Stars were averaging 4.24 goals per game, which dropped to 3.96 goals per game after Grand Rapids held Texas to just two goals in both contests. Last Wednesday, the Griffins held the Stars to two goals for the first time in the past 12 games and held them to fewer than three tallies for only the fourth time in the opening 21 outings. Grand Rapids repeated that performance on Friday, holding the high-powered offense to just two goals. The four goals totaled by the Stars last week against the Griffins were the fewest they’ve scored in consecutive contests since the first two games of the season (3, Oct. 13-14).

Antti Up
From Oct. 27-Nov. 29, rookie defenseman Antti Tuomisto was sidelined for 12 games due to rehabbing an upper-body injury. The 22-year-old was reassigned to the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) on Dec. 1 and exploded for six points (4-2—6) in five appearances, scoring three goals in a two-game span from Dec. 8-9. Tuomisto returned to the Griffins on Dec. 10 and continued his scoring run when he tallied his first AHL goal on Dec. 15 against the Texas Stars. Between the AHL and ECHL, Tuomisto has now logged four goals in his past five appearances and seven points (5-2—7) in his last eight outings. During his first pro season in the Liiga (Finland) with TPS in 2022-23, Tuomisto totaled 20 points (5-15—20) in 60 regular-season games.

Clutch Hutch
On Saturday, the Griffins signed goaltender Michael Hutchinson to a one-year contract for the remainder of the 2023-24 season. Hutchinson, who was previously on a professional tryout contract, has logged a 5-7-1 record with one shutout alongside a 2.98 goals against average and a .895 save percentage through 13 games with Grand Rapids. The 14-year-pro has appeared in 222 AHL contests throughout 11 campaigns and has a combined 2.60 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Hutchinson participated in the 2017-18 AHL All-Star Game and was named to the 2018 AHL Second All-Star Team when he posted a 17-5-4 ledger, a 2.08 GAA and a .935 save percentage in 26 games with the Manitoba Moose. The 33-year-old, who represented Team Canada at the 2022-23 Spengler Cup, has also suited up for 153 NHL games across 11 seasons and notched a 57-61-18 record with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 save percentage. The Griffins released Hutchinson from his AHL contract on Tuesday and he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

Johnny Bravo
Last week, Swedish prospect Jonatan Berggren competed in four games in five days between the Red Wings and Griffins, registering a point in each outing. Berggren completed a similar feat from Nov. 29-Dec. 2, suiting up four games in four days in four different cities between Detroit and Grand Rapids (New York, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Milwaukee) and totaling four points. The Enkoping, Sweden, product enjoyed a six-game point streak in the AHL (4-5—8) from Nov. 18-Dec. 5, which included a team-high three -game goal run from Nov. 18-26 and a team-best five-game assist streak from Nov. 24-Dec. 5. With three points (2-1—3) in his last two games, Berggren now has 14 points (7-7—14) in his last 12 contests with the Griffins. The 23-year-old ranks second on the roster with 18 points (7-11—18) in 18 outings and has a combined 89 points (32-57—89) in 95 career AHL appearances from 2021-24.

Power Surge
Grand Rapids’ power play has been a bright spot for the team thus far, as it is tied for 15th in the AHL with a conversion rate of 18.8%. On the road, the Griffins rank 15th at 19.5% compared to 18.2% at home (14th). Grand Rapids is 3-for-15 (20.0%) on the man-advantage in its last five games and has scored at least one power-play goal in six out of the previous nine contests (7-for-34, 20.6%). Taro Hirose leads the team with three power-play goals and six power-play assists. Simon Edvinsson is tied for fifth among AHL defensemen with two power-play goals.

Under Three is Key
Unsurprisingly, the Griffins have done well in games where they have scored four or more goals, going 7-1-1-0 (.833). Although, when scoring three goals or less the team is just 2-11-2-1 (.219). Grand Rapids has scored four or more goals in seven of its last 13 outings. On the flip side, Grand Rapids is just 1-10-3-1 (.200) when allowing at least three goals, compared to a 8-2-0-0 mark (.800) when allowing two goals or less. In their last 13 appearances, the Griffins have allowed three or more goals eight times. Leading after the second period is also huge for the Griffins, as they sit at 7-0-1-0 when playing with the lead after two frames compared to a 2-12-2-1 (.206) ledger when either tied or playing from behind.

AHL Leaderboard Tracker
Sebastian Cossa
—3.02 GAA places seventh among rookie netminders, .901 save percentage ranks seventh among rookie goaltenders
Simon Edvinsson—16 points are tied for 14th among defensemen, six goals are tied for fourth among defensemen, two power-play goals are tied for fifth among defensemen, two game-winners are tied for fifth among defensemen
Carter Mazur—Two power-play goals are tied for 12th among rookies
Antti Tuomisto—One game-winner is tied for first among rookie defensemen

Last night, Taro Hirose passed Mitch Callahan for seventh on the team’s all-time point list with 187. On Dec. 9, Wyatt Newpower skated in his 150th pro game. On Dec. 8, netminder Michael Hutchinson recorded his 200th win as a pro in a 4-3 overtime victory over Belleville.
Tim Gettinger—Two points from 150 as a pro
Joel L’Esperance—One point from 200 as a pro
Nolan Stevens—Three goals from 50 as a pro

Photo by Texas Stars